Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and atomic number 79. Gold is one of the few metals that remain shiny, without tarnishing, when exposed to air or water. In popular culture, gold is associated with phrases like: “heart of gold”; “that’s golden!”; “golden moment”; “then you’re golden!” and “golden boy” (Wikipedia).
Iron pyrite, on the other hand, also known as “fool’s gold,” is a brassy yellow mineral that is often mistaken for gold. Basically valueless, it is used to make sulfuric acid.
It stinks just as much as the International Game Fish Association’s (IGFA) new gender rule that is sure to have men and women fishing on opposite banks for the foreseeable future. It’s known as the April Fools’ Rule because it takes effect as of April Fools’ Day 2014. The untimely announcement of the new rule was made on International Women’s Day … wow, does that stink!
The ploy was created to invite hundreds, if not thousands, of women to stake potentially false claims into record for new vacancies and new opportunities created by the IGFA. Records for their freshwater line classes and fly-rod listings have been segregated into gender-specific allocations, which will result in a bonanza or windfall for women and a bust for men in the announcement and registration for world records going forward. Just because something looks good on the surface does not mean it is what it appears. All that glitters is not gold.
What does this new rule really mean for you and me?
1. The paternalistic new rule by the IGFA indicates that a fish that weighs 5 pounds caught by a man is somehow different than a 5-pound fish caught by a woman. The weight of the fish means less under the new rule if you are a man. A woman doesn’t have to catch a bigger fish than a man, she only has to catch a bigger fish than the last woman whose record was recorded. For example, if the world-record fish weighs 5 pounds and a woman catches a 4-pound fish, then she has a new world record if her fish is bigger than that of the last woman who caught the same species.
2. Under the new rule, some misguided women will be clamoring to get a pink world record, believing that it is the real deal. In fact, they simply jump a claim, in effect stealing a stale, dated record possibly already set and broken long ago, which may have been overtaken a hundred times already. This is bizarre to even think about. It’s like taking all the Guinness world records and saying they don’t count anymore because we want to establish different records for a minority interest group we don’t think can cut it without a handout.
3. If you don’t think there is a lot of money to be made because of this new rule change, you are sadly mistaken. Boat captains and guides are already queuing up with their girlfriends or wives to secure world records that may have been out of their grasp before the pink rule change. Trust me, you are going to see a lot of familiar faces mugging for the cameras as a result of all of the free press and publicity that comes along with an IGFA world record. And, this will turn into profit for these guides and captains.
4. The other notable change is that a world record will no longer be a world record; it will be a world record and a “women’s world record.” Personally, I am not interested, nor do I need handouts. And in my opinion, because of this rule change, being lucky enough to catch a world-record fish going forward will not carry the same prestige.
5. This is short-term gain for long-term pain: a case of boom and bust. The glory days — while the IGFA is making much-needed revenue and memberships, because of the onslaught of new stats for their record books and new female members — will soon come to an end. That’s because this is self-limiting, once all the female slots are filled. We all know that an Atlantic salmon will only ever get to be so big, so then what, after all the female slots are filled? Another new set of categories? Gay and lesbian records? Records delineated by race and religion?
IGFA needs to evolve with the times and focus more on conservation, education, science and making fishing less exclusive and more inclusive. They need to diversify their board membership to include representatives of all the constituents from the world of fishing. They need to celebrate history by including more of the women who have, over the years, made significant contributions to the sport and are notably excluded from their museum.
6. Recognize that this rule is taking us back in time. It should not be surprising that this misguided attempt to integrate women will in fact polarize the issue of gender in our sport even further. If I were a guy who had tried for years to get a world record, I would resent that the record is handed to someone else who caught a smaller fish, based on gender alone. Instead, in keeping with the times, where women are now captains of industry and commerce, it would make sense to update the IGFA record books by doing away with the saltwater male and female segregated list, a list that was voted into practice not that long ago. In keeping with modern times, it would be correct to have only 1 list. A record fish is a record fish.
The rule was put in place to create much-needed revenue and memberships for the antiquated IGFA. This is an organization that espouses conservation idealism, whilst not discouraging the killing of large, old, broodstock fish, as a ticket into the IGFA world-record books.
I tried in vain to stop this “flash-in-the-pan” rule from becoming pay dirt for IGFA, because it comes at the expense of gender equality in our sport. Oh, the politics and shenanigans that went on to convince the rest of us that this change was a good thing! They pulled out the big guns and used board member and IGFA inductee Joan Salvato Wulff as their poster child. Joan’s picture was the image driving the campaign. The IGFA was sending a clear message, namely that “the much-revered Joan herself had signed off on the rule change” and so we should toe the line.
There’s no question that a great number of women will jump at this opportunity to stake a claim (meaning “to show that you believe something is yours”) when it is really not and is the equivalent of fool’s gold. They are trying to secure themselves a spot in the history books, but they didn’t earn it unless it is a true world record, based on fish size and not gender.
Let the record show that not only will I not be renewing my IGFA membership, which expired last week, but I will not participate in what I see as a detriment to the progress women have made in our sport. Furthermore, I will not be celebrating the hollow victories and photo ops that I will no doubt have to suffer each day of women being touted as heroes for catching a fish that is being called a world record, but doesn’t beat the current standing world record. I will celebrate women, and men, who actually achieve a true catch-and-release world record.
Understand that it was very difficult for me to have to draw a line in the sand on this issue, as it might likely harm my career, but I don’t want to be the “Edith” to the IGFA’s “Archie Bunker.”
Separate but equal … no such thing!
Herbert Hoover said it best:
“To go fishing is the chance to wash one’s soul with pure air, with the rush of the brook, or with the shimmer of sun on blue water. It brings meekness and inspiration from the decency of nature, charity toward tackle-makers, patience toward fish, a mockery of profits and egos, a quieting of hate, a rejoicing that you do not have to decide a darned thing until next week. And it is discipline in the equality of men—for all men are equal before fish.”